Whenever I hear anything about “El Nido” as a kid, the first thing that comes to my head is our very own Miss Universe title-holder, Ms. Margie Moran. I don’t know why, but maybe it’s because of all those travel shows I hear my grandmother watches on TV during late evenings whenever I’m supposed to be asleep already. Then I came to discover eventually that she is not at all associated with El Nido, but is, in fact, associated with Pearl Farm (she manages it, not sure if she owns it), which is in Davao, and not Palawan– where El Nido is located. So there’s that. Then when I was a bit older in college, when I hear about how beautiful El Nido is as a travel destination, I never dared even dream of reaching it, because all I can assume is how expensive it probably is. That only those who have the moolah can enjoy this paradise. Boy am I happy to be proven wrong again.

beautiful limestone cliffs which is common in the El Nido archipelago
beautiful limestone cliffs El Nido

 

FROM THE BIRDS

The town of El Nido in Palawan was called ‘Talindak’ before the Spaniards came and renamed it “Bacuit”. The small archipelago- comprising of 45 islands and islets, with it’s present name “El Nido”- which means ‘the nest’-  is derived from a local gourmet soup’s main ingredient  taken from the limestone-dwelling birds. They say this place  is the true inspiration of Alex Garland’s travel/backpacking novel, The Beach- after having lived there for 6 months. Yes, that film of the same name which starred Leonardo Di Caprio and filmed in Maya Bay, Thailand. I think that the movie being shot there is actually a good thing because it keeps El Nido from being touristy, and hopefully for a very long time. Don’t you agree?

For me, El Nido is where Boracay meets Coron~ a combo of island adventure which showcases gorgeous limestone formations and also having the option to frolic on kilometers of lovely, powdery white sands minus the hords of tourists. While it may be a place that’s bit harder to reach (compared to most tourist spots), it’s definitely worth all the effort.

El Nido Twin Beach, Nacpan And Calitang beach

 

With the help of a local tour organizer, I organized a group of 14 people, rented a house in the locality and booked 3 tours for our adventure. There are several ways to go to El Nido. For us, we opted for  the Manila-PP flight  and then rented a van for the land trip taking us from Puerto Princesa to the town of El Nido.

 

 


 Land Travel from Puerto Princesa to El Nido

It would take approximately 6 hours to travel to El Nido by land coming from Puerto Princesa. That would also depend on the means of transportation you’ll take to get there. In our case, we rented a van since it is faster and more convenient for a big group such as ours.

MEANS OF TRANSPORT PRICE TRAVEL TIME
VAN 500-700 5-6 HOURS
BUS 380-480 6-9 HOURS
RENTAL CAR 2000-3500 P/DAY 5 HOURS APPROXIMATE


Along the way, we went on a couple of stop-overs to have a break from the ride and stretch our legs. Travelling by land (either by van or bus) is actually one of my favorite things when going on a roadtrip. I love seeing the countryside; views of farms and hills and breathing the fresh air outside the smog of Manila.

 


WHERE TO STAY IN EL NIDO FOR A BIG GROUP

Since there were 14 of us, we decided that it would be more practical to rent a house instead of staying in a hotel and paying for multiple rooms. For our entire stay, we booked at The El Nido Full House. It is a two-story property with 2 double bedrooms upstairs, and 2 more rooms downstairs (1 twin bedroom and another room with 2 bunkbeds).

The El Nido Full House photo by Mark Montalban

Even the living room upstairs has sofas which guests can use to sleep in. All in all, maximum of 16 persons can be accomodated. The advantages of staying in this house is you can cook your own food and dine with privacy as if it’s your own home. I highly recommend this place for big groups. The El Nido Fullhouse is owned by Lina Viklund and her filipino husband. I communicated directly with Lina for arrangements and she was very gracious and accomodating. For contact and reservations, you can check their own website here.

EL NIDO SIGHTS AND SOUNDS

 

There are so many things to do in El Nido! Of course, there is the usual Island Hopping tours and snorkelling, food tripping and cliff-climbing (Taraw Cliff). I also love exploring the downtown area and just sight-seeing in EL Nido port is such a leisurely experience.

 Island-hopping in El Nido

There are currently 5 tours available in El Nido, namely tours A, B, C, D & E. Each tour (as far as I know) would take approximately 9 hours, or basically- a whole day, though our guide told me that this is flexible. We opted for tours A, C  and E. The first two are the most popular, and the inland tour- so we can see the twin beach. 

Tour A = 1,200
Tour B = 1,300
Tour C = 1,400
Tour D = 1,200

TOUR A – The Lagoons
Explore the three lagoons on Miniloc Island: Small Lagoon, big Lagoon and Secret Lagoon, snorkel around Simizu Island and have fun in the white sands of Entulala Island.

TOUR B – Caves, Snake Island and Pinabuyutan Island
A great sight seeing tour with a bit of snorkeling: Snake Islands, Cudugnun Cave, Catherdral Cave and Lagen and Pinabuyutan Island. The latter is a pleasant snorkelling spot on nice weathers, if you’re lucky you can see some turtles and other marine mammals like sharks.


TOUR C- Matinloc & Tapuitan Island, Secret Beach
This tour is known also as the ‘snorkelling tour’ and it takes you to Matinloc and Tapuitan Islands with a visit to the famous Secret Beach, the Matinloc Shrine, the Hidden Beach and Helicopter Island. 

TOUR D- Kayaking and Snorkelling tour
A tour if you want to do some kayaking and snorkelling, taking you to Bocal Island, along the wall of Cadlao to Paradise beach, into the Ubugon Lagoon and to Helicopter Island.


TOUR E- The Inland tours (Day Trip)
This tour is not actually a part of the standard tours , it is more of a DIY tour which you arrange with our guide. It is also the best option if- in case of bad weather- when other tours are cancelled, you can inquire about this one. You can rent a van (for a big group) to take you to the twin beach or rent a tricycle for 800php-1300php (for 3 pax) depending on your haggling skills. It’s around an hour to 1 1/2 away from the main town. You can also opt to include visiting Nagkalit-kalit falls, which requires a 45 minute hike to reach the falls.
I am actually quite surprised that not a lot of itinerary for El Nido includes this one, but I do think that this part of El Nido deserves it’s own post.

I wrote a full blog post on exploring the twin beach of Nacpan And Calitang in El Nido. You can click here or at the image below for my feature on the twin beach. http://pinoytraveljunkie.com/nacpan-calitang-twin-beach/

FOOD

There are many options for dining in El Nido. From karinderias, street food to bars & restaurants, you will have a lot to choose from. What really is a stand-out for me is the muffins from the Midtown bakery (which is also a nice pasalubong to take home) , and the breath-taking view of Bacuit bay when dining @ The Alternative. 

 1. The Alternative Inn & Restaurant

 Located on the main El Nido port, The Alternative Inn and Restaurant gives you a breathtaking view while dining. It is very important though, to come early in the morning or make reservations if you want to have breakfast on one of it’s ‘nests’ (they only have 2) aside from their regular dining area. UPDATE 2017: I have learned that this establishment has relocated. You can check their facebook page here.

Breakfast with a view at The Alternative Inn & Restaurant

 

2. El Nido Boutique & Art Cafe

A nice place to chill for people attracted to an artsy ambiance and they even have live music on certain days. You can check out their Facebook page here

The El Nido Art Cafe

3. Streetstyle Homemade Crepes

Stalls selling crepes of different flavors are a common sight in El Nido. You can grab one for a quick dessert or snack.

How to go to El Nido, Palawan: 

(information source) 

Flights:

  • Manila – El Nido: daily with ITI – 7:30/ 11:00/ 15:00

  • El Nido – Manila: daily with ITI – 9:30/ 13:00/ 17:00

  • Manila – Puerto Princesa: daily flights with PAL, Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, Zestair and Tiger Airway

Cargo/ Passengers Ship:

  • Manila – Coron – Puerto Princesa with 2Go Travel

  • Outrigger boats go back and forth from El Nido to Coron, Busuanga. Travel time is min. 8 hrs. depending on the sea. Departs El Nido almost every day. This boats can get cancelled due to weather conditions or technical problems may occur.

Buses:

  • RoRo buses depart at San Jose Terminal in Puerto Princesa for El Nido every 2 hours during the day until 6pm and then starts again at 4am and a 10pm trip at night. Fare is P500. Travel time is 6-7hrs.

Private Shuttle Van:

  • Puerto Princesa – El Nido (5hrs) Fare is P600. Hotel or airport pick up in Puerto is additional P100.


EL NIDO SUGGESTED ITINERARY

Since we only had 5 days for our El Nido adventure, out of the 5 available tours,
we took tours A, C and E. Let me give you a general look at our schedule:

Day 0: Arrival/Puerto Princesa City Tour/Lunch
Day 1-2: Island Tours
Day 3: Twin Beach tour
Day 4: Departure for Manila

1. Bed/Transfers Arrangements: 

The EL NIDO Full House (http://www.elnidofullhouse.com/)
-Airport transfers 
-Exclusive & flexible use of 14 seater- van for the duration of the trip
March 27- PP City tour/foodtrip/grocery
March 28,29,30 Tours, tours, tours
March 31- Departure

2. Tour/Package Inclusion (3 Packaged tours)
    A, C and Twin Beach tour (E)


(customizable and with side trips/destinations)
– 3 Lunch (Day 1,2,3)
-Boat Rent, Fuel, Lifevest 
-Boat Captain & Crew 
-Entrance Fees/Environmental Fees 
-Free Use Of Snorkel Mask/fins
-SIDETRIP to TayTay on the way back to PP (OPTIONAL)

 

PACKAGE COST:

7,500 per head based on 14 pax cost-sharing

-5N/4D exclusive of airfare

(as of March 2014)


What was not included? 


-Dinner & Breakfast
-Grocery (personal effects, other snacks)


*We did not include breakfast and dinner in our package because we bought food in the
marketplace for our morning meals, then we want to have the option to explore the many
restaurants for our dining out in the evening.

 

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